At the moment, the motor industry is all about light commercials. No doubt about it.
Volkswagen has sparked interest with its posh Amarok (soon to be available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox), Toyota has updated the number-one-selling Hilux and Ford/Mazda raised the bar with their all-new Ranger/BT-50 paternal twins, which really recalibrated our expectations of what kind of performance, dynamics and safety were possible from a rugged off-road ute.Therefore, the most important question you'll want answered about the all-new Holden Colorado is how it compares with that very serious competition. Does it have the performance and handling prowess of the Ranger/BT-50, the cabin quality of an Amarok? Well, no and no. Sorry, but it's that simple.
That's a problem for a brand-new vehicle destined for a long shelf life. Right then… should we just move on?
Well no, because it's not that simple either. The Brazilian-designed, Thai-built Colorado has style on its side for sure: to my eyes it's better looking than any of the competition, because the exterior has a bit of an American-truck thing going on. It's swish inside, too – because of the way it looks, rather than the way it feels. The shapes are trendy but the plastics are hard and the fit/finish is pretty approximate in place.
And of course it's tough. Tougher than the competition? Realistically no, as it lacks the comprehensive off-road driver-aid technology of the Ranger/BT-50 and you wouldn't want to argue with the durability of the much-loved (if ancient) Hilux. But the Colorado is at least as tough as its rivals, for sure: proper off-road ability and a monster 3.5-tonne towing capacity (more than its Fordza competition) on the top 2.8-litre models.
I was fortunate enough to drive a pre-production Colorado earlier this year, well ahead of launch, and talk to some senior Holden staff who were working on the project. From the company tone at that time, I think it's fair to say that even Holden executives were taken aback at how sophisticated last year's Ranger/BT-50 utes were. They certainly acknowledged the car-like qualities of the competition, but emphasised that the forthcoming Colorado would be a work truck, not an SUV-substitute. Funny that.
Clever thinking, although that claimed ethos does not necessarily gel with the Colorado we now see before us: high style inside and out, and on my top-line LTZ test vehicle enough equipment and chrome to confirm that this is a ute intended to offer a bit more than the ability to cart bricks around.
The 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine is clattery but a monster when it comes to outputs: 132kW and a whopping 470Nm – exactly the same torque as the larger-engined 3.2-litre Ranger/BT-50 five-pot motor. While it does not have the aural character and smoothness of the Ranger mill, you cannot help but be impressed by the muscularity of the Colorado powerplant. Especially when driving through the manual gearbox of our test car – only a five-speeder, mind.
If it wasn't for the high-minded competition, Colorado's ride/handling would be very impressive. As it stands, it's comfortable and safe but still quite truck-like. I guess that's okay for a truck. Our test vehicle was a 4x2 at $49,990, although the same-specification 4x4 costs another $10,000.
The townie-trim LTZ boasts a plethora of chrome detailing, 17-inch wheels (still too small to look right), LED rear lamps, soft tonneau cover, alloy sports bar, climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and eight-speaker stereo. Front and curtain airbags are standard, although no side airbags as per the Ford and Mazda.
Should you? Apart from a tad more towing ability, there's nothing that sets the Colorado above the obvious competition. Personally, I'd be swayed by the look as it's more individual than the Ranger/Amarok without being overtly wacky like the BT-50. As one colleague said after driving it: the new Colorado is not class-leading, but if you were a Holden fan with the old model, this one is impressive enough that you wouldn't feel the need to change brands.